Why I Hate Modern Traffic Lights

Thankfully, Preston doesn't get as busy as this

About 6 months to a year ago, the pedestrian traffic light system in and around Preston city centre received a fairly substantial revamp. And ever since I’ve hated the bloody things. They grate on my design and human interaction nerves. Let me paint you a picture.



Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the old Preston pedestrian traffic light system, but essentially they looked like this:

The old pedestrian traffic light system... it made sense

Imagine yourself at the perspective of the photographer here: you press the button to your right to change the lights and ahead of you are the lights, which eventually change to indicate that you can cross the road. There would also be an accompanying loud beeping sound as well, for people who are blind or hard of seeing. Makes sense, right?



Here’s how a main pedestrian traffic light crossing in Preston now looks:

The new Preston pedestrian traffic light system... urf...

This was taken from my point of view. A keen observer might be wondering: where have the traffic lights gone? I can’t see them. Good question. I’ll tell you where they are:

The new position of Preston's new pedestrian traffic light system... why?

They’re right next to you.

This poses a major problem. If there are many of you, in a line, waiting to be able to cross the road then you can’t see the lights. Because they’re being blocked by the line of people. I’m 5’10” and these lights come to around my shoulder height. I have, on several occasions, watched a load of people start to cross the road because, being unable to see the lights, they saw one person sneak across and took his lead. The lights hadn’t actually changed. The guy just tried to sneak across the road before the cars arrived.

It nearly got very messy, I tell thee.

Also, the loud beeping noise that accompanies the changing of the pedestrian lights from red to green has gone. You know, the noise that people who are hard of sight need to know when to cross fairly busy roads.

Insert a variety of facepalm pictures here.

The old setup worked perfectly fine. You pressed the button, looked ahead, and waited for the lights to change to green. After all, you’re looking ahead anyway. That’s the way you want to go.

Why the need to change it?

This is what happens, ladies and gentlemen, when committees make design decisions. They induce universe-sized apocalyptic facepalms from me.

Ian Cylkowski aka Izo

Logo & Brand Identity Design

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4 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. I should have to hand the different kinds of crossing, for they have chosen – I think – “puffin” over “pelican”…or “zebra”…..These all exist, as well as “toucan”, I wish I were making these up….

    You are right to question the logic behind them. Initially I approved. They looked smarter and seemed to de-clutter the street furniture a little. Then reality struck. I am about your height, a little smaller, and it’s impossible to spot in a crowd if the lights have changed. There is another issue too – the revolving button on the bottom for sight-impared pedestrians has now lost its identification marker, If you don’t know its there – or if the person you are helping cross the road doesn’t know its there for later – then tough!

    I have seen people step back into the moving people traffic behind to fashion some idea of the roads rather than wait for the signals to alter. It creates far more hassle and crowd trouble than it needs to.

    Maybe it was done to make things look or feel or appear “better”. It is a case of – cliché alert – something being fixed that t’was nae before braekn’d.

    • Izo,

      @Liam: thanks for the comment! I forgot about the revolving button. It would seem that the ‘designers’ of the new system aimed for a sense of minimalism without really knowing what it IS.

  2. It’s like the bicycle lights in Germany: http://www.hi-benny.de/Blogbilder/2058.JPG

    When you stop right next to the light post to hold on to it (pedals with clip – too lazy to unclip, but don’t want to fall), you can hardly see them without breaking your neck.